Recently, this post over at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial made all the 11 bread recipes on my “to make soon list” run away in a panic, as Celia’s sourdough demanded to be baked right away!   Walnuts, spelt flour, plus a very active sourdough starter.  I simply could not wait to try it. Celia is such an accomplished baker that she throws a recipe together as if it’s nothing, and her breads turn out spectacular every single time.  I am a lot more insecure, so I asked her to virtually hold my hand and guide me through my take on her method.  Success! We loved the bread, it is rich, dense but not to the point of feeling heavy.  Outstanding with Roquefort cheese,  confirming the magical combination of walnuts with blue type cheeses. Unbeatable! And, let’s not forget the many benefits of walnuts… read a nice article about it here.

(adapted from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial)

150 g sourdough starter (at 166% hydration)
300 g water
300 g bread flour
200 g whole wheat flour
100 g walnuts, lightly toasted
9 g sea salt

Toast the walnuts in a 400 F oven just until fragrant.  Cut in pieces, not too small. Reserve.

Place the water in a bowl, add the sourdough starter and mix to dissolve.  Add the flours, mix to form a shaggy mass, and let the dough rest for 20 minutes.  Add the salt and knead the dough in the bowl a few times to incorporate it.  Let the dough rest for 30 minutes, add the walnuts and incorporate them in the dough by gently kneading it.   Let the dough rise for 2 more hours, folding twice at 45 and 90 minutes.   Thirty minutes after the last folding cycle, form the bread in the shape of your choice, place in a floured banetton or other appropriate container, and let it rise for 3 to 4 hours at room temperature, depending on how active your sourdough starter is.  The dough is ready to bake when it is not quite doubled in size, but feels airy when you gently poke the surface.

Invert the dough on parchment paper, score the surface with a sharp blade, and place in a 450F oven to bake with initial steam.  Total baking time will be about 40 minutes, I baked my loaf under an inverted roasting pan previously filled with water and emptied, so that some water stays clinging to its sides.  I removed the roasting pan after 25 minutes, and bake the loaf uncovered until done.    Internal temperature should be higher than 200 F.

Allow the bread to completely cool before slicing through.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  In typical Sally-fashion, what I thought was a bag of spelt flour in my freezer turned out to be teff flour.  After frantically inspecting every single spot of the two freezers we own, I gave up and modified the recipe to use regular whole-wheat flour instead (triple sigh).  If you have spelt, use it 50/50 with the regular flour (for the amount of this recipe, that would be 250 g of each flour).

The 166% hydration might sound strange, but  keep in mind that it’s the hydration you obtain when feeding your starter by volume instead of weight and using equal amounts of flour and water (for instance 1 cup of each).  Very convenient, many bakers adapt their recipes to this level of hydration because it makes it a lot easier to keep the starter, no  need to use a scale. I was more of a 100% hydration lady, but must say I loved the way the more liquid starter performed and was so easy to mix with the dough.

For this type of bread, I don’t like to cut the walnuts too small, but if you prefer them to be less obvious in the crumb, go ahead and finely dice them.   Toasting before incorporating in the dough is optional, but I usually go for it.

Celia, thanks for yet another inspiring recipe, and for your help with the method.   I am counting on you to hold my hand again as I take a walk on the dark side (aka cake baking ;-)). 

  I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting.

ONE YEAR AGO: Thai Chicken Curry

TWO YEARS AGO: Zen and the Art of Risotto

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50 thoughts on “WALNUT SOURDOUGH

  1. Sally, you are such a sweetheart, but I do wish you’d stop showing me up. 😉

    Every time you make one of “my” recipes (this loaf, the ciabatta etc), you end up with something so magnificent that my efforts pale by comparison – that last photo of yours could have come straight out of an expensive food magazine! I can’t believe someone who bakes bread like you do could ever be insecure in the kitchen! 🙂

    And re the walnuts, great idea to toast them – I’m too lazy to even cut them up, so I usually throw in whole pieces and let them break up as they will during the dough folding process. The 166% hydration comes about from the 1 cup water (250g) to 1 cup flour (150g) and I find it nice to work with too!



    • Celia, I am definitely going to use the 166% hydration more often from now on, so easy to handle! The thing that I used to like the most about stiffer starters was the way they rise and stay up for a longer time, but that has nothing to do with its activity, in fact I was surprised by how fast my dough rose with the 166% mix


      • how do you change your starter over? Do you do it in one feed or over a series? As Celia says, that loaf looks superb 🙂 Lay a place for me please! I have tied my napkin under my chin in readiness xx


        • Hi, Joanna!
          As I mentioned by email, I do it over three feedings – both when I adapt a different flour (such rye), or altering the hydration

          (sorry I didn’t catch the comment earlier…)


  2. Wow, this loaf is simply stunning!!! Your sourdough loaves always look like works of art! You say you still feel insecure with your bread baking skills, but I would love to come over and learn from your mastery one day!


  3. I would like to try this but I am I am very math challenged. How much “Dan” and how much water do I mix to get 150g at 166% hydration?


    • Hi, Cindy
      the whole advantage of the 166% hydration is that you don’t need to worry about a scale when you prepare it. So, let’s say you want to have 150g of the starter. Make enough to have extra and simply weigh the 150g you need for the recipe.

      150g (in the case of water) is equal to 150ml – and that is 0.6 cups. Flour won’t behave the same way as its density is different, but let’s not worry about it. If you make 1 cup of starter you will have more than enough, so simply mix 1/2 cup of water, 1/2 cup of flour, and a little of “Dan” and you will be set to go.

      the fact that “Dan” is not at 166% hydration won’t matter, because you add such a small amount to the mix.

      If your recipe calls for a stiff sourdough and you need to use a more liquid one, you will have to adjust the water amount in the rest of the recipe. Celia in her site has a nice article about how to do it. SUsan from Wild Yeast also wrote about it


  4. Some day.. you will find your breads on my blog, you two.. but until then I am afraid.. very afraid when you start talking percentages and starters and such!! But.. never say never.. the sight of this bread is sooo tempting!!


    • I was afraid of the “hydration thing” before I started making sourdough, but the more you play with it, the easier it gets. Just imagine that your wild yeast can be living in a jar with different proportions of water to flour, so it will bubble up as it ferments, but if there’s more flour the whole thing puffs up almost like bread dough would. If it’s more liquid, instead of puffing up you see many bubbles on the surface, indicating its activity. Recipes are designed for a particular type of hydration simply because there is a different amount of water added with the starter, and that needs to be taken in account. Imagine that your recipe calls for a very liquid starter, but you have a drier one and decide to use it anyway. Well, your dough will have less water than it should, and if you don’t adjust it….. Hockey Puck City! 😉


  5. Sally, I think this is one of my favourites so far of your many accomplished loaves… I just love the rustic looking, crunchy exterior with the more delicate walnuty interior… oh yes, pass the blue cheese please – fantastic! Great photos too Sally.


  6. Oh I know I would love this one! I think this would be right up Mr. N’s alley as well. He loves walnuts and blue-type cheeses. And as always, it’s absolutely stunning! 🙂


  7. I’ve bought walnut sourdough a few times from a local bakery and it’s kind of the best. But this loaf looks BETTER. I need to get over my sourdough fear and try this!


  8. Sally, this loaf is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen! I could make a poster with the crumb photo and put it on my kitchen wall 😀 The colours are amazing. Those walnuts really count in artistic impression.

    I love seeing your breads, it always give me an impulse to bake something right away. 🙂


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    • Thank you! We were very happy with this bread, and my husband keeps looking at the two last slices in the freezer but cannot bring himself to eat them…

      today he asked me when I’ll make another “just like it” 😉


  11. Holy smokes, this is GORGEOUS. I must make this bread, I must make this bread, I must make this bread….

    I’ve just got to get over my fear of sourdough starters. But this bread looks like it’s worth conquering fears for.


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  15. Just tried this, and the result was fantastic. Next time, I will try proofing for three hours instead of four. Four was overproofed in the sense that the boule did not retain its shape after removal from proofing basket – it just sagged out like Jabba the Hut. It had not-quite-doubled as described.

    I baked it in a dutch oven and didn’t get quite the inflation I hoped for; another sign of overproof.

    Nonetheless an excellent recipe. I’m curious if the flavor would benefit from a refrigerated overnight proof (a la Reinhart). Not sure how to combine that with this recipe though.


    • So glad it worked for you! I also find that learning the exact point between the height of proofing and going over is very tricky. I am trying to do the finger poking at several stages, and MAYBE I am starting to get some feel for it. but I’m definitely not quite there yet

      A lot of the fun is in the learning, though… 😉 Thanks for the feedback, I appreciate it!


  16. This blog is great!!! Totally got me in the mood to bake up a delicious loaf of bread! Has anybody heard anything good about the starters from Sourdough’s International? A friend suggested one of their starters, I haven’t got the chance to try them out.


  17. Followed this receipe exactly (only substituting walnuts with hazelnuts) and the bread was delicious. Oven rise was amazing. In fact, was my best bread so far. It will probably become a classic. Thank you for the receipe !


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